The Amazing Resistance of Reinaldo Arenas / Rafael Lemus

1.  March 12, 1965, an open letter by Ernesto Guevara to his friend Carlos Quijano is published in the Uruguayan weekly Marcha.  The text, “Socialism and the New Man in Cuba,” is perhaps Guevara’s most significant theoretical writing, and at the same time an emphatic declaration of the regime’s objectives emanating from the Cuban Revolution, then already declared Marxist and in the full process of converting the island to socialism.

Maybe nowhere else is the regime’s intention to intervene in all segments of Cuban society enunciated so clearly, to radically transform the mental and physical life of its citizens and to produce a new subject: the New Man.

That desire to regulate the existence of individuals and to act on the biological functions of life — even regardless of political action — is not, of course, exclusively of the Cuban regime and not even of socialist systems. As Michel Foucault discovered, it has to do with a fundamental characteristic of the power of modern western societies.

After the 18th century, as Foucault details in Security, Territory, Population, power “takes into consideration the fundamental biological fact that man constitutes a human species” and creates a series of disciplinary mechanisms and standardization — from hospitals and colleges to camps and prisons — that pursue “the eventual transformation of individuals.”

Then still leading the Cuban Ministry of Industry, Guevara writes in that letter:  “In order to construct communism, simultaneously with the material foundation, one must make the New Man.” The job, he warns, is not simple: “The defects of the past are transferred to the present in the individual conscience” and, in order to eradicate them, individuals “must be subjected to stimuli and pressures of a certain intensity.”   Continue reading